- Devendra Fadnavis visited Sharad Pawar at his Mumbai home
- Amid intense speculation, it is being described as "courtesy call"
- Mr Fadnavis said he had gone to enquire about NCP chief's health
A meeting between Sharad Pawar, a top leader of Maharashtra's ruling coalition, and Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis, has seeded intense speculation in the state's politics even though it has officially been described as a "courtesy call".
The BJP's Devendra Fadnavis, former Chief Minister, met with the NCP chief at his home in Mumbai on Monday morning.
Sharing a photo of the meeting, Mr Fadnavis tweeted: "Met Former Union Minister and senior leader Sharad Pawar-ji at his residence in Mumbai this morning. This was courtesy meeting (sic)."
Met Former Union Minister & Senior leader Shri Sharad Pawar ji at his residence in Mumbai this morning. This was courtesy meeting.— Devendra Fadnavis (@Dev_Fadnavis) May 31, 2021
माजी केंद्रीय मंत्री आणि ज्येष्ठ नेते श्री शरद पवारजी यांची आज त्यांच्या मुंबई येथील निवासस्थानी सदिच्छा भेट घेतली. pic.twitter.com/eqjabCHMh7
He also said he had gone to inquire about Mr Pawar's health after his recent gall bladder surgery.
The meeting took place at a time Maharashtra is witnessing high voltage politics over Maratha quota in jobs and education. Mr Fadnavis and Maharashtra BJP president Chandrakant Patil have been very aggressive in targeting the Uddhav Thackeray government for its handling of the sensitive subject.
The Supreme Court recently struck down a Maharashtra law granting quota to Marathas in education and government jobs, which was enacted when Mr Fadnavis was Chief Minister.
The BJP has planned a protest on June 5 against the state government, accusing it of botching up the case for Maratha quota.
Last month, the Supreme Court called the quota "unconstitutional", pointing out that the 2018 law had pushed reservations over the 50 per cent cap.
Mr Fadnavis has also been critical of the state government over its handling of the Covid second surge.
Mr Pawar's party shares power with the Shiv Sena and the Congress in Maharashtra. In 2019, his challenge to the Fadnavis-led BJP-Shiv Sena coalition became the theme of the Maharashtra election.
After long-time allies BJP and Sena fell out over power sharing, Mr Pawar was instrumental in melding ideologically opposite Sena with his own NCP and the Congress to form an unprecedented alliance.
In the past two years, wrinkles have emerged in the Sena-NCP tie-up; recently, Mr Thackeray reportedly held discussions with Mr Pawar over his differences with NCP minister Jayant Patil.
Against this backdrop, Mr Pawar's meeting with Mr Fadnavis has become even more stand-out.
Minister and NCP leader Nawab Malik insisted that it was a courtesy call. "Don't read too much into this meeting. In Maharashtra, the government and the opposition are not enemies. They keep on meeting each other," he said.